I strongly believe that pictures with layered composition always attract attention. I’m not talking about layers in Photoshop, lets leave our digital machines to rest for a while. Using background and foreground effectively, you can have a great impact on any viewer. Trust me, if your work will have depth and volume, you’ll be able to tell your story in unique and memorable way. I will give you a few simple tips how to effectively work with layered composition and how to make your photographs come alive.

Use layers In Composition

How To Use layers In Composition

When you understand the concept of background and foreground, you can start working with a central object or a model in your picture knowingly. Everything works if you can grab viewer’s attention. Some places like field or forest are not a complete layer in a picture. However, if we have a beautiful flower in this field or unusual curvy tree in that forest – these objects are easily recognizable and can be used as layer.

For example, a landscape where we see the mountain with the cross over it as our central piece of the photograph, also if we get in the frame some trees for the foreground and use the rising sun as the background, then we’ll get the picture we will be proud of. 

Keep an eye on the background

Every so often, amateur photographers don’t pay attention to the background. But you know that the devil is in the details: all unnecessary objects will likely steal viewer’s attention from the central idea of the picture. We don’t want any lamp posts or any vivid object from the background to “grow” out of our model’s head, don’t we? Any “photographic garbage” like cars, bystanders, bright signs and posts can be distracting. If you can’t hide it or change the point of view, it can be quite interesting if you use this “garbage” as the vital part of the composition.

It can be quite challenging, because it requires of photographer to find comparisons or metaphorical connections between your main object and the object in the background. But this is a very good training exercise for improving your skills. 

Lenses with wide aperture are really good to get a strong blur of the background. I use Nikon’s 50mm f/1.8G and 85mm f/1.8G for these purposes. Just remember that at widest aperture these lenses lack sharpness. 

How to make both foreground and background sharp 

Photographers often face the problem, when they do not need to blur the background, but need to make everything sharp. To do this, simply cover the aperture to the F11-F16 and shoot at a short focal range (at the minimum lens zoom). When you learn to work with the hyperfocal focus distance, sharpness will no longer be a problem for you.

Quick tip here, remember that if you’re working with people, widest focal range has pincushion distortion. It cannot be always fixed in post-production. So I’d advise for wide angle portraits to use at lease 35mm lens. 

If you want the viewer to see everything, the layers of the picture should not overlap

It is one of the biggest beginner’s error. If the foreground and background overlap in the photo, it is impossible to evaluate any. To prevent this from happening, you can simply use the rule of thirds by placing one layer at the upper left intersection of the lines, and the other at the lower right or vice versa.

By the way, if you are a Nikon user, you can enable the grid to help in the viewfinder in cameras and also show it on the screen in Live View mode.

What To Do When You Think Of An Interesting Subject For Shooting

How does a beginner photographer take pictures? After he finds an interesting object, he immediately points camera at it and makes the shot from the exact same spot where he got inspired. As a result, most likely, the picture will be boring and won’t meet his expectations.

The advanced photographer will ask himself: where the point of shooting should be? What is the layout of the future picture? Is it possible that there is an interesting foreground (or background) nearby? Answering these questions will help you to make any picture exciting and engaging. So just before you press the button on your camera, explore the area around your chosen subject!

By the way, the foreground doesn’t have to be sharp. There is a certain charm, when it is beautifully blurred.

In the case of landscape photography, the main object will be more or less obvious: a beautiful mountain with sunset sun, a wooden house, a tree. However, your viewer has seen many times beautiful mountains and houses in pictures and in life. It is important to show your own point of view – to craft your own story in the photo.

This is where you can use foreground to full extent. So, in the case of the landscape, you can show small objects of the landscape in the foreground, it can be flowers, stones, textures. This way the viewer will be completely impressed by the story of your work. It is as simple as that: a frame full of details is always more interesting to look at.

Working With Layered Composition Will Make You Think About The Point Of Shooting

Did you ever wonder why your pictures look imperfect? When you make a conscious choice of foreground or background for your story, you get better results. For example, the foreground for landscape photography will often require shooting from a low point: from the level of the knees or the ground. For portrait photography, if you find a natural frame for your model, for example, tree branches, tall grass or parts of architecture objects, it will enhance your photos for sure.

This works in any other direction of photography – the search for an interesting background will lead to constructing thoughtful composition for your photos.

A sign of the photographer’s skill is the ability to create a layered composition. Show more attention to your subject, to the area in which you live and photograph, to the places you visit abroad. And I believe that you’ll create exciting and unusual pictures!

Example Of Using layers In Composition

As the final example I want to tell you about how I made the photo of this post. It was a small wedding just the bride and the groom, they wanted to visit old town to capture memorable parts of the bride’s home town. It was really important because they were about to leave this place for good and move to another country. That was a busy day and a lot of cars around, so I decided to take it to my advantage. I noticed that cars had very interesting and bizarre reflections.

So I placed them between a very textured wall and a car. I used my old Nikon telelens 80-200 to get a very tender shot. The reflections with the help of my tele-lens blurred in the foreground to create a dreamy feeling. And the brick wall behind them symbolizing the strong bond between newlyweds. For editing I used my favorite presets from Rockshutter to make this picture look authentic and stylish.